4. IT HAS A BRANCHING STORYLINE...
It would have been easy for Treyarch to deliver a familiar Call of Duty experience in a new time period and call it fresh, but the Santa Monica studio has strived to defy expectations. And one of the biggest ways to prove Black Ops 2 is completely different to everything that the studio has developed before is to dispense with Call of Duty's linear storytelling and to introduce the element of choice.
At key points during the game you'll be presented with multiple options, and the path you choose will dictate the fate of those around you as well as your own. We're told a lot of these choices are skill based: if you fail to, say, protect a friendly, their death or capture will trigger a splinter storyline rather than a fail state.
Ultimately the mechanic is designed to personalise each playthrough and encourage repeat visits to the campaign with an eye to improve your game and strive for a better finish. We're hoping Treyarch slide a bonus branch complete with extra epilogue in there for Veteran players who want to try and dominate the game's ultimate test.
5. ... AND SANDBOX LEVELS
And the surprises keep on coming.
Step forward the 'Strike Force' gametype. It's a sub-mode which lives within the campaign that sees special Black Ops squads travelling the globe and performing various tasks within small, open levels. We saw one in action: a 20-minute skirmish in some Singapore shipping docks that could well have doubled up for a small multiplayer map. The aim was to secure three checkpoints (handily labelled 'A', 'B', and 'C' - again, very reminiscent of multiplayer) and hold back steady streams of enemies until various story elements involving said checkpoints had run their course.
Playing into the previous theme of choice, at particular points through the campaign you might be asked to pick from a choice of Strike Force missions. The option(s) you ignore could then be locked out until your next campaign playthrough to once again entice you back in to see what you missed out on first time over.
6. THERE'S AN RTS MODE
Of sorts. And it's the Strike Force mode we've just been talking about. So far you might be thinking Strike Force is little more than an offline multiplayer gametype populated by bots, but the reality is far more interesting. At any point in time you can switch control between the men on the ground, the drones skulking around the floor, the armed quadrotors in the air or, our personal favourite, a general monitoring the entire battlefield from afar courtesy of cameras high above the site.
From this latter vantage point it's possible to play the role of the puppeteer: pushing, pulling, probing, prodding, and penetrating enemy forces (perhaps not the sort of puppeteer you want entertaining your children) while reacting to dips in vital signs and covering off opposition flanking manoeuvres. It's a mode playable in so many ways thanks to the freedom to swap between attacking forces; plus, you can do this as frequently as you'd like without penalty. The result: a completely new experience for the franchise.